New Year Statement on Lockdown

5th January 2021

January 2021

A new Year. A new lockdown.

With the arrival of the new Covid mutant strain (70% more virulent), the massive surge in hospitalisations back at March 2020 levels and a serious threat of the NHS being overwhelmed, the Prime Minister really had no choice but to impose another lockdown.

The latest data are very serious:

⚠️ 25,000 patients in hospital w Covid

⚠️ 6% increase in 24hrs

⚠️ 41% increase since Xmas Day

Here in Norfolk:

⚠️ 80% of Norfolk hospital patients with Covid have the new variant

Covid test positivity rates

Covid-19 deaths

So, with a similarly heavy heart I fully support the PM’s decision.

BUT.

I believe it is critical now that the Government prioritise a number of key groups so that nobody is left behind:

⚠️Properly support the Small Businesses, sole traders, freelance self-employed and SME owner managers who don’t have the luxury of a reliable public sector OR business income.  There are 30,000 businesses in Norfolk.  We must look after the c 3million self-employed people nationwide. Local businesses like pubs and clubs, painters and decorators, hairdressers, builders, theatres, and all the other local small businesses are the backbone of our local economy and our community and more vulnerable than bigger businesses.

⚠️ School pupils, parents and teachers: We must prioritise reopening schools ASAP. We cannot allow a generation of young people to have their life chances damaged.  In the meantime, we need to help ensure pupils can access quality digital teacher interaction not just “e-learning” home alone on the internet.  And put in place a clear framework for proper and reliable grading of pupils if exams have to be cancelled.

⚠️ Re-establish the Community Shielding programme: Continue to encourage local volunteers to help be part of it.

⚠️ Accelerate the vaccination programme: We need thousands of vaccine centres set up around the country.  We should prioritise Key Workers like Teachers and School Staff so we can get children back to school as a priority ASAP.

⚠️ Expand and speed up Test Track and Trace: So that local public health officials can stop infection spreading fast.

⚠️ Install proper testing at our ports & airports: We need to minimise exposure to international virus mutations

⚠️Allow and encourage as much outdoor exercise by households: Which we know is vital for physical and mental health

⚠️ Cut Red Tape and bureaucratic silos and allow much more local innovation: There is a huge public sector estate of buildings which can be used as vaccine and test centres.  We need to encourage innovative solutions by local leaders.

⚠️ Support Local leadership: Make clear that the areas which can show lowest virus transmission can reopen first. Make sure the lockdown is used by local leaders to put in place the necessary Data tracking, integrated management systems and local solutions to allow our economy to reopen ASAP. There is a danger that a national lockdown creates a culture of total dependence on decisions in London.  We need to actively do the opposite and cut centralised bureaucracy to allow local council and agency leaders to lead locally. 

——-

Detailed implementation issues

There are hundreds of detailed questions which will need to be answered.

As last year I will be working flat out to deal with all the issues raised and raise all issues on behalf of constituents to try and get you the answers you need ASAP.

If you have any queries, please email me at george.freeman.mp@parliament.uk

For the current Government guidance head to: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home

For my latest information on coronavirus head to: https://www.georgefreeman.co.uk/content/covid-19-help-and-support

This lockdown WILL pass.

We HAVE a vaccine and are leading the world in rolling it out.

We WILL emerge from this in the spring.

In the meantime, we HAVE to do everything we can to minimise the risk to our vulnerable neighbours, protect our NHS from being overwhelmed, do all we can to prevent serious long-term damage to people’s life chances and livelihoods and minimise the length and extent of the lockdown so we can get back to normal healthy life ASAP.

This is another test of our stamina,fortitude and the strength of our mutual commitment as a Norfolk and national community.

Working together we WILL come through it.

 

Yours,

 

George